Pitches…GAWD!

Writing pitches reminds of me pregnancy hemorrhoids. I strain really hard, then something odd pops out. I’ve been pushing all day, let me tell you. I hope I have created something at least slightly Prep-H worthy.

I really HATE writing pitches, but I won’t get published without them. I love making stories, but I despise trying to consolidate my ideas into a couple of attention-getting sentences that will snag me an editor. I’m NOT short winded. AT ALL. I will fart around for days before I actually sit down to write a synopsis. I spent all day yesterday avoiding the queries I’d assigned myself by lolling around at the park with my family. I had the BEST day playing with my kids, so I slapped a couple of pictures from our little adventure up with this post. They are way cuter and more appropriate than any graphic representation I could put up that would symbolize me trying to get my work done today. For me, writing a pi-otch is a bi-otch.

I’m not sure if I’m even qualified to give advice on the subject of pitching, but I’m going to try. Here are a couple of things to remember when you are on your own personal query toilet.

  • First and foremost, consider your writing style. Are you funny? Is your writing contemplative? Flowery? Sarcastic? Academic? Then write that way! Construct your query to match the writing style you are trying to sell. Be professional, obviously, and DEFINITELY have your facts straight, but don’t send some stilted formal tome to introduce yourself. Editors can smell constipated writing from miles away.
  • For Cripes SAKE! Spell the editor’s name correctly. If I were the editor, and you screwed my name up, I’d flush your “jank” immediately.
  • Look for and FOLLOW EXACTLY the directions on the submissions guide for the  magazine/agency/publisher/website to whom you’re sending your work. Most editors, etc., will slushpile your work if you don’t format or send it correctly.
  • Do your homework. Show the editor/agent/publisher that there really is an audience for your work. Statistics help. If you’re writing a book on stepmothers, you can tell a potential agent that there are around 2500 stepfamilies created daily in this country; currently, there are an estimated 15 million stepmothers in the United States. There’s definitely a market for your book, and you proved it with your stats. BUT, don’t submit an article on snow to a local publication in Miami, Florida, whose readership consists of people who hate cold weather. Duh.
  • Most pitching experts I’ve consulted (stalked on the Internet) agree that if you can’t narrow a synopsis of your work or idea down to four or five sentences, you don’t know what the hell you’re writing about. I have to agree, but that doesn’t mean this tight of a summary is easy for me. My queries today were pretty long, but I got my point across.

I can assure you that there are plenty more important things to think about as you create a query, and I’ll add to my list as time goes on. I am also going to submit the synopsis I created for my unfinished middle grade novel manuscript to The Canary Review to be “Pitch Slapped.” Their reviewers will rip it to shreds, slap me soundly, then provide me (maybe) with some ideas for a better pitch. I’m scared crapless, but criticism from fellow writers can really help improve your work and possibly get you published. I’m ready to flush my ego and put my stuff out there. I’ll share any comments and feedback I receive on this blog; I’m going to get me a public “pitch slap.” So wish me luck, and have a creative day (that doesn’t involve queries, hemorrhoids, or constipation).

Critique? You’ve Got to Be Kidding!!!!!!

My afternoon at the Virginia Festival of the Book offered me two distinct seat-cushion-up-ass experiences. The first occurred at the Dancing with the Manuscripts workshop. This was the forum where published authors from the Moseley Writers would work with each participant to speed critique the first 250 words of their manuscripts. I brought along the first part of a memoir I’m writing about my struggles with infertility. I didn’t figure this out in time to email my work days before, so I brought my page to the door and turned it in. What could it hurt?

It wasn’t until the moderator began the session that I realized what I had done to myself. She started by explaining that she would read each sample of work aloud. The four writers on the panel would hold up green cards if they liked the writing and wanted to continue reading or a red card if it sucked. Those weren’t the moderator’s words. They may has well have been because all I heard were red card and I translated everything else she said into SUCK! There were only about two hundred people in the workshop as well to add to the humiliation and naked flogging to which we writers had just subjected ourselves. The one positive beam out of the whole thing was that she would not be reading any names.

I quietly had a panic attack for the next hour while the moderator read each person’s work. Red cards, green cards, and comments flew as one by one each writer was anonymously vindicated or bitch slapped for his or her style. I learned enough about craft from listening to the comments to know that I would have earned myself a red card or two or (gasp!) four. If I had inhaled even the slightest bit of coal dust at that point I surely would have shat a diamond.

Lucky for me and my overwrought ego, my story was not selected for critique. By the end of the forum, I had conjured up enough nerve to ask for some feedback. I marched my relieved ass up front and stuck my manuscript under the nose of the first available commentator. My patient helper happened to be Fran Cannon Slayton, moderator of the children’s publishing session I just attended.

“You get to the point quickly,” she said when she was done reading. “I understand what it’s about right off the bat. I am, however, confused here.”

She pointed to the part I wrote about hormones.

“I get that it’s about you, but you’re making me think that you are a teenager or something with this `bubbling soup of hormones’ thing,” she said. “You also mention your parents and then some stepchildren. I’m assuming the kids are yours, but I’m not sure from here if they belong to you or your parents.”

Woah. I had a lot of work to do. I hadn’t thought about how confusing the whole thing was. I hadn’t taken the time to read this through any other eyes but my own. Oh, boy.

I walked out of the forum, breathless, but still intact. I had awhile to recover before the Agents’ Roundtable next. That workshop would be my second cushion-up-ass experience, which I’ll share in my next post.

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